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By the evening of July 17 , US East Coast time, US news agencies were reporting the White House press secretary Josh Earnest as saying: “I can confirm that President Putin near the end of this morning’s phone call [actually 12:30] with President Obama noted the early reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border.” Later still in Obama’s day – by then about 4 in the morning Moscow time – Obama said:
“It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority.’’
No hint of evidence of cause or culpability surfaced in Obama’s remarks. The first allegations of that sort came from officials in Kiev and from Vice President Joe Biden.